Volume 1, Issue 2 (September 2023) – 7 articles

Cover Story (View full-size image):
The cell-free protein synthesis system offers unparalleled control for both fundamental research and bioengineering applications. Precise post-translational modifications are essential tasks to meet the increasing demands of accurate biomanufacturing of proteins. This review highlights the latest advancements and the confronted challenges in post-translational modifications within the cell-free protein synthesis system, outlining a prospective roadmap for cell-free biomanufacturing.    View this manuscript


22 May 2023

Fed-batch Self-regulated Fermentation of Glucose to Co-produce Glycerol and 1,3-propanediol by Recombinant Escherichia coli

As important bio-chemicals, glycerol and 1,3-propanediol (1,3-PDO) have been widely used in numerous fields, e.g., polymers, cosmetics, foods, lubricants, medicines, and so on. Bio-based 1,3-PDO is generally produced from glycerol or glucose by natural or recombinant strains, during which organic acids are always co-produced. In this work, acetic acid was also co-produced when 1,3-PDO was obtained from glucose by a recombinant strain of E. coli MG1655. Usually, a base was added to adjust the fermentation pH, resulting in the accumulation of organic salts and difficulty in the next down streaming process. Herein, a novel strategy was developed to consume the produced acetic acid by cells self in fed-batch self-regulated fermentation. The recombinant E. coli cells produced 48.33 g/L glycerol and 61.27 g/L 1,3-PDO with a total mass yield of 45.6% and without any other byproducts at the end of 5 fed-batch fermentations. The initial buffer pH, glucose concentration, pulse feeding sugar amount, time for a single batch fermentation and reducing acid were investigated by a series of comparative experiments. This fed-batch self-regulated fermentation has potential for the co-production of 1,3-PDO and glycerol, and will highlight the subsequent modification of recombinant E. coli strain by synthetic biology.


31 May 2023

Nitrogen-controlled Valorization of Xylose-derived Compounds by Metabolically Engineered Corynebacterium glutamicum

The implementation of bioprocesses in an economically feasible and industrial competitive manner requires the optimal allocation of resources for a balanced distribution between biomass formation and product synthesis. The decoupling of growth and production in two-stage bioprocesses, aiming to ensure sufficient growth before the onset of production, is particularly relevant when target products inhibit growth. In order to avoid expensive inducer molecules, continuing process monitoring, elaborate individual process optimization, and strain engineering, we developed and applied nitrogen deprivation-induced expression of genes for product biosynthesis. Two native nitrogen deprivation-inducible promoters were identified and shown to function for dynamic growth-decoupled gene expression or CRISPRi-mediated gene knockdown in C. glutamicum with superior induction factors than the standard IPTG-inducible Ptrc promoter. Valorization of xylose to produce either the sugar acid xylonic acid or the sugar alcohol xylitol from xylose as sole source of carbon and energy was demonstrated. Competitive titers of up to 34 g·L−1 xylonate and 13 g·L−1 xylitol were achieved in two-stage processes. We discussed that the transfer to bioprocesses with C. glutamicum using carbon sources other than xylose appears straightforward in particular regarding production of growth-inhibitory compounds by their growth-decoupled fermentative production.


19 July 2023

Hydroxybenzoic Acid Production Using Metabolically Engineered Corynebacterium glutamicum

Hydroxybenzoic acids (HBAs), including 4-HBA, 3-HBA, and 2-HBA, are valuable platform chemicals for production of commodity materials and fine chemicals. Herein, we employed metabolic engineering techniques to enhance the production of these HBAs in Corynebacterium glutamicum ATCC 13032. Our approach augmented the shikimate pathway and eliminated genes associated with HBA degradation, particularly phenol 2-monooxygenase encoded by cg2966. Increased titers of 3-HBA and 4-HBA were achieved via selection of suitable promoters for 3-hydroxybenzoate synthase and chorismate pyruvate lyase. A tac-M1 promoter was suitable for chorismate pyruvate lyase expression and 8.3 g/L of 4-HBA production was achieved. Efficient production of 2-HBA was enabled by maintaining a balanced expression of isochorismate synthase and isochorismate pyruvate lyase. Consequently, strains KSD5-tacM1-H and KSD5-J2-PE exhibited production levels of 19.2 g/L of 3-HBA and 12.9 g/L of 2-HBA, respectively, using 1 L jar fermenter containing 80 g/L of glucose. Therefore, this engineered strain platform holds significant potential for production of other valuable products derived from chorismate.


28 July 2023

Challenging Post-translational Modifications in the Cell-free Protein Synthesis System

Post-translational modifications (PTMs) represent a cornerstone in the complexity of the proteome, significantly contributing to diversifying protein structure and function. PTMs can considerably influence protein function, stability, localization, and interactions with other molecules. Therefore, it is important when choosing a protein expression system to ensure the precise incorporation of PTMs during protein synthesis, which is paramount for producing biologically active proteins. The cell-free protein synthesis (CFPS) system has emerged as a powerful protein synthesis platform and research toolkit in synthetic biology. The open nature of the system allows the reaction environment to be tailored to any protein of interest to promote specific PTMs, thus allowing for the production of a protein with desired modifications. This review presents various PTMs achieved in the CFPS systems, providing insights into current challenges, successes, and future prospects.


28 August 2023

Dynamic Metabolic Control: From the Perspective of Regulation Logic

Establishing microbial cell factories has become a sustainable and increasingly promising approach for the synthesis of valuable chemicals. However, introducing heterologous pathways into these cell factories can disrupt the endogenous cellular metabolism, leading to suboptimal production performance. To address this challenge, dynamic pathway regulation has been developed and proven effective in improving microbial biosynthesis. In this review, we summarized typical dynamic regulation strategies based on their control logic. The applicable scenarios for each control logic were highlighted and perspectives for future research direction in this area were discussed.


01 September 2023

In Vitro BioTransformation (ivBT): Definitions, Opportunities, and Challenges

Great needs always motivate the birth and development of new disciplines and tools. Here we propose in vitro BioTransformation (ivBT) as a new biomanufacturing platform, between the two dominant platforms—microbial fermentation and enzymatic biocatalysis. ivBT mediated by in vitro synthetic enzymatic biosystems (ivSEBs) is an emerging biomanufacturing platform for the production of biocommodities (i.e., low-value and bulk biochemicals). ivSEB is the in vitro reconstruction of artificial (non-natural) enzymatic pathways with numerous natural enzymes, artificial enzymes, and/or (biomimetic or natural) coenzymes without living cell’s constraints, such as cell duplication, basic metabolisms, complicated regulation, bioenergetics, and so on. The two great needs (i.e., food security and the carbon-neutral renewable energy system) have motivated the birth and development of ivBT. Food security could be addressed by making artificial food from nonfood lignocellulose and artificial photosynthesis for starch synthesis from CO2. The carbon-neutral renewable energy system could be addressed by the construction of the electricity-hydrogen-carbohydrate cycle, where starch could be a high density of hydrogen carrier (up to 14.8% H2 wt/wt) and an electricity storage compound (greater than 3000 Wh/kg). Also, ivBT can make a number of biocommodities, such as inositol, healthy sweeteners (e.g., D-allulose, D-tagatose, D-mannose), advanced biofuels, polymer precursors, organic acids, and so on. The industrial biomanufacturing of the first several biocommodities (e.g., myo-inositol, D-tagatose, D-mannose, and cellulosic starch) would wipe off any prejudice and doubt on ivBT. Huge potential markets of biocommodities with more than tens of trillions of Chinese Yuan would motivate scientists and engineers to address the remaining technical challenges and develop new tools within the next decade.


14 September 2023

Synthetic Biology Industry in China: Current State and Future Prospects

In this article, we provided an overview of the current state of the SynBio industry in China with a focus on its research and technology, its main applications, and major players. We also discussed future prospects including the challenges and advantages of the SynBio industry in China.